Bologna mayor Matteo Lepore on the balcony of Palazzo D'Accursio in Bologna | Photo: ANSA/Max Cavallari
Bologna mayor Matteo Lepore on the balcony of Palazzo D'Accursio in Bologna | Photo: ANSA/Max Cavallari

The Italian city of Bologna recently started granting honorary citizenships to children who were born there to foreigners. Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League party, has harshly criticized the city's mayor for participating in events in support of 'Ius soli' at schools.

Matteo Salvini -- the Italian transport minister and head of the far-right League party -- shared a post on Tuesday in which he criticized the mayor of Bologna, Matteo Lepore, for speaking in favor of giving children born to foreigners in Italy citizenship automatically. He shared a video of Lepore talking to children in a classroom about the topic. Salvini wrote that "the rally held by the mayor of the Democratic Party in the schools of Bologna with girls and boys in order to "promote the principle of Ius Soli" was "embarrassing."

The mayor of the north Italian city is a member of the Democratic Party. The center-left party is in favor of a less restrictive migration policy and frequently clashes with Salvini's right-wing populist League.

After Salvini's post, clashes between League and PD broke out in the Chamber of Deputies as well.

"A mayor cannot say that there are laws different from those of the state and that in Bologna citizenship is acquired through jus soli. If the Democratic Party (PD) wants to insert indoctrination into school programs, the PD should take the matter to parliament. The education minister should respond to this attempt at indoctrination in our schools," said League politician Rossano Sasso. PD parliamentarians -- including Bologna's Andrea De Maria -- defended Lepore, calling the League's statements a "shameful attack" against the mayor.

Bologna mayor to Salvini: 'Speak to these young people'

The mayor himself responded by inviting Salvini to meet with school children in Bologna: "if you come with me to speak to these young people, you would change your mind about ius soli."

He added: "They are the future and they feel Italian. [...] They have no need for hate; they need to feel like part of our community. With equal rights and duties."

The topic of Ius soli has long been controversial in Italian politics. Activists and left-leaning politicians -- in particular from the PD -- have long pushed for a reform of Italian citizenship law, while right-wing parties are against these reforms.

Ius soli refers to a law where citizenship is based on where someone is born -- not whether their parents are citizens. This means that a child is automatically granted citizenship when they are born within a country.

Right now, to be granted Italian citizenship at birth, children have to have at least one parent who is a citizen (with some minor exceptions, including for children of stateless parents). Children born in Italy to non-Italian parents have to go through a bureaucratic process and fulfill certain criteria to get citizenship at the age of 18.

Bologna campaign for citizenship for children of migrants

In June 2022, Bologna's town council approved a measure to grant honorary citizenship to all foreign minors who were born or studied in Bologna, with right-wing parties voting against it.

The symbolic act is supposed to make the children feel more included in the community -- to get 'real' citizenship, they still have to go through the bureaucratic process. However, Bologna does provide various integration initiatives and courses to make it easier for children to apply for naturalization.

In November, Bologna also launched a campaign called "Bolognese from the first day" -- in part to inform children about how to apply for naturalization. The logo of the campaign has been displayed on the facade of the town council and periodic events are held in schools. The mayor's school appearance that Salvini criticized was part of that campaign.

Bologna is not the only city which has bestowed honorary citizenship to local children born to foreigners -- in August of last year, the town of Cosenza in southern Italy approved a motion to offer honorary citizenship to the children of migrants, if they fulfill certain criteria.


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